Lululemon launches its first line of sneakers to bring its “science”

Probably the most used word to describe Lululemon’s best workout leggings is “butter.” It’s not an accident. Lululemon explicitly researches how things feel on the body and therefore how people feel psychologically when wearing them. The company has incorporated the philosophy into a tangible slogan it calls the “Science of Feeling.”

Today, Lululemon is launching its first line of shoes, which it announced in April 2019. The company is leaning into the concept of “feel” for shoes, incorporating it into its marketing and even packaging. . (The shoes arrive in tissue paper emblazoned with the word “feel” in different fonts.) According to Lululemon, the feel of the products is not at all secondary to how they work, it’s integral to functionality.

[Photo: Lululemon]

“We saw a real opportunity to apply our Science of Feel philosophy around feeling your best to do your best in the footwear category to support the [customer] from head to toe,” says Sun Choe, Product Manager at Lululemon.

The company also knew it had customer demand. From 2017 to 2018, Lululemon collaborated with fashionable sneaker brand APL, whose designs often have a woven and quilted look in directional colors. This helped Lululemon understand how to sell shoes in its stores and what appealed to its customers. Now, Lululemon’s own line features shoes “designed for women first, not women too,” according to Choe.

[Photo: Lululemon]

The first style, a running shoe called Blissfeel, will launch on March 22. It will retail for $148 and comes in 10 initial colorways, including neutrals like black, white, and gray, all the way to light pink, a peach pierced with neon green. , and electric red. Other styles will be released in the coming months, including a hybrid shoe for running training, a training-specific shoe, and a post-activity slide. A men’s line is coming, but Lululemon is focusing on women first, which makes sense, since that recently accounted for around 70% of its customer base.

I admit that all this talk of “feeling” didn’t strike me as so revolutionary. (Duh, running shoes should be nice.) But Lululemon says that historically, shoes are first designed for men’s feet and then adapted for women. Lululemon reversed that by first studying women and their feet, in what Choe calls “a paradigm shift.” It’s a concept that also guided the design of runway star Allyson Felix’s new line of Saysh shoes.

[Photo: Lululemon]

Lululemon made lasts – the last the shoes are made from – from scratch, which is also unusual. Some shoe companies use standard lasts or adapt their women’s shoes from existing men’s lasts. Lululemon was committed to researching how women’s feet differ from men’s (narrower heel, wider forefoot, different big toe size, totally different body mechanics). According to Chantelle Murnaghan, vice president of research and development at Lululemon, Science of Feel, building its own lasts was the only way for the company to integrate all the necessary elements into the shoe.

Lululemon worked from the inside when designing the shoes, says George Robusti, vice president of shoe design at Lululemon and an Adidas veteran. The team used information from 3D mapping of the nerves in the foot to determine potential areas of tenderness, warmth and sweat buildup. He informed the actual structure of the shoe in details like the seamless inner liners and the use of stretchy mesh in some areas versus stiff in others.

[Photo: Lululemon]

“Everything has been looked at to this level on all shoes,” Robusti says, noting that the upcoming training shoes feature multi-directional traction pads that will provide stability on surfaces like carpet and wood, a snap. to COVID-era home workouts.

Then, the color brings the emotion. Choe says a pink metallic shoe in her APL collab was the top-selling colorway, which surprised everyone. Robusti describes the first launch colors as a pyramid. At the top is neon green, which is considered an accent throughout the collection. It was inspired by the green flash that is seen on the horizon just before sunset.

[Photo: Lululemon]

We can’t talk about sneakers without talking about logos. The Nike swoosh and Adidas triple bars are instantly recognizable. Just like the Lululemon logo. There’s an obvious logo on the back heel, much like its placement just above the buttocks of the Lululemon pants. There’s also a small one on the tongue and one embossed on the rubber of the toe and bottom sole.

I no longer run thanks to a bad knee, but I put on a pair of Blissfeels for a brisk four-mile walk and a bit of light jogging through the hills and asphalt in my neighborhood. They felt cushioned, but not ridiculously. Most of the time I was engrossed in a podcast and stopped noticing the shoes, which I think is the best case scenario. After that, I had no more blisters or pain. Overall, it felt like a serious athletic shoe, not a fashion sneaker.

Lululemon is moving into an environment where upstarts like On Running and Hoka One One are taking market share from big, traditional brands. Even with the customer loyalty that Lululemon enjoys, it will have to win them over and convince them that it can live up to the high sneaker bar that currently exists. Society definitely, ahem, feels it can do that.

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